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Time for an official recognition of the event sector

A summer full of events this year? Let us hope so. However, the fact that Rock Werchter 2021 has already been postponed is not a good omen. But when it is all allowed again, will there still be enough professionals to organise events? The past year, the event sector has been hit hard. How can this sector survive if it officially does not exist yet? As head of the centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts, I believe it is time to recognise events as a policy domain. And why not a Minister of Events? The goal is not only the revival, but also a sustainable framework for events in our country postcorona.

The event sector is struggling with a few problems. First, the event sector does not even exist. If there is such a sector, it is often treated as the poor relation. That is not surprising because it does not fit into one box or belong to one department. And what about the policy domain events? As yet, this does not exist. A large part of events, both local and supra-local, are spread out under the domains of culture, economy and sports, but also under departments such as tourism.

This leads to another problem, which is the lack of a clear leader. Nobody can take full responsibility for these thousands of organisations because of its fragmentation. It is everyone's and, at the same time, no one's final responsibility. With the many and not always consistent protocols in circulation as a result.

A Minister of Events, please

More than ever, organisers and suppliers need recognition and leadership. Due to the corona crisis, organising physical events has been virtually impossible since March 2020. The losses are enormous. Research by our centre of expertise revealed that the loss of turnover for these organisations has risen up to 70 percent, compared to 2019. Redundancies occurred in almost half of the organisations. It will take a long time to recover from this and to close the hole of economic damage.

Therefore, as researchers, we advocate the demarcation of the policy domain events and the emergence of a sector with its own joint committee. And why not a Minister of Events? If we want events to flourish again and to become more professional, final responsibility on a political level must be taken. A recognition at supra-local level could then trickle down to the local authorities, so that an Alderman of Events will be appointed in every city and municipality.

Sustainable framework needed

In addition to official recognition, there is a need for sustainable research for and about these organisations, their actions, and visitors. It is important to map the long-term impact of this crisis on our prosperity and well-being. Research is already being conducted today, by our centre of expertise and by policymakers, among others. But the research is too limited and fragmented. Because of the fragmentation, the research is too much focused on a few sub-aspects or subsectors of this vast sector. Moreover, knowledge from research is still insufficiently shared with other departments and stakeholders.

No lack of ambition and enthusiasm

A strong relaunch of events, with a policy domain, a minister and sustainable research as a framework, will be reflected in an increasing number of start-ups and entrepreneurs. A healthy environment creates the courage to invest. Profits will be made both in terms of efficiency as effectiveness.

Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. There is already a good basis. The various (small) event federations came closer together for the first time during the pandemic, out of necessity to be able to lobby as a more united front. As a result, since September 2020, a more structured cooperation is operational under the name Event Confederation.

Our centre of expertise has also stepped up a gear over the past year and has, among other things, mapped out the impact of the corona crisis, both on the supply and on the demand side. We were also closely involved in the development of the COVID Event Risk Model, for a safe and hopefully rapid recovery of the sector.

And now the event sector needs one overarching policy, one protocol and one joint committee. The support measures that the organisations receive may be sufficient in the short term, but the recovery, and certainly the consolidation of the event sector, is a long-term process. There is no time to wait; we need to move faster. The aim is not only the revival but also the sustainable framing of events in our country postcorona, with its clear economic and social spill-over effects.


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